The Cinema of Werner Herzog: Aesthetic Ecstasy and Truth (Directors' Cuts)
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Werner Herzog is renowned for pushing the boundaries of conventional cinema, especially those between the fictional and the factual, the fantastic and the real. The Cinema of Werner Herzog: Aesthetic Ecstasy and Truth is the first study in twenty years devoted entirely to an analysis of Herzog's work. It explores the director's continuing search for what he has described as 'ecstatic truth,' drawing on over thirty-five films, from the epics Aguirre: Wrath of God (1972) and Fitzcarraldo (1982) to innovative documentaries like Fata Morgana (1971), Lessons of Darkness (1992), and Grizzly Man (2005). Special attention is paid to Herzog's signature style of cinematic composition, his "romantic" influences, and his fascination with madmen, colonialism, and war.
as Aguirre, Wrath of God are far less direct in their engagement with the past, and Herzog may be right to suggest that critics should avoid seeing the image of Hitler in Kinski’s character, as it was not his intention to make a film about Fascism in Europe. Of all of Herzog’s works, only Invincible directly depicts German anti-Semitism and Nazis. In that film, Herzog can be said to have made a contribution to the discussion of Jewish reactions to anti-Semitism in the runup to World War Two. His
strongmen and bodybuilders’; he adds, ‘I detest the cult of bodybuilding, something I feel is a gross deviation’ (Cronin 2002: 16). Additionally, one notes with respect to Invincible that when that film’s muscular protagonist realises the dangers of the Nazi rise to power in Germany, he aspires to be strong enough to hold them off on his own. Along with his strength comes a feeling of obligation and a desire to act as a hero. The Hercules of this early film, by contrast, is too busy admiring
that something like this cannot be faked. Precisely because he actually was having the boat pulled over the mountain, the production of the film and the production in the film overlap. The two are inextricably entwined: both the director and the visionary entrepreneur evince the desire to stage a massive production in the name of aesthetics. Herzog’s vision of cinema constantly crosses paths with Fitzcarraldo’s dream of opera. For Herzog, as for Fitzcarraldo, the desire to achieve his goal is
actually more a film about Herzog than it is about Richard Thompson: watching the production it is plain how involved Herzog is in the scoring of the film, constantly letting his musicians know what he wanted. As with most of his other works, the music is part of the substance of the film, never subordinate to the images. He tells one of the musicians: ‘There is never anything like “background music” in my films.’ The soundtrack is filled with an untraditional mixture of guitar and cello,
always seems to march hand in hand with Herzog’s depictions of nature. It is indifferent to our presence, and we, the trespassers, are little more than an interruption in the course of time. CHAPTER FOUR Faith To return to the question of theology, which has been remarked upon earlier, Herzog’s comments in Burden of Dreams expressed a strong scepticism about the existence of God. When describing the jungle, he says that if it was created by God, then it was created in anger. His most